Five Best Ebook Readers

Whether you're using them for business or pleasure, school or holidays, a good ereader can help you take your favourite books anywhere you go. Here's a look at some of the best ereader devices.

Photo by Cloned Milkmen.

Amazon Kindle

Amazon's Kindle is arguably the most ubiquitous ereader on the market today. The Kindle comes in a standard 6-inch model and the larger 9-inch Kindle DX, priced at $US139 for the Wi-Fi only version, $US189 for the 3G 6-inch model and $US379 for the 3G Kindle DX. The Kindle features a high-contrast E-ink display, is capable of storing over 3,500 books from the Kindle store, and if you spring for the 3G models you can download books anywhere, or surf the web using the built-in browser.

Apple iPad

The Apple iPad isn't strictly an ereader, but it certainly can be, with the help of Apple's iBooks and the ability to sideload ebooks through alternative ebook stores that can be installed on the iPad and loaded up with books and documents that can be purchased from other sources. The iPad was designed to be much more than an ereader, but it serves that purpose just fine. An iPad will cost you $579 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, $689 for the 32GB, and $799 for the 64GB model. 3G versions in those sizes cost $729, $839 and $949 respectively.

Android Tablets

A similar logic applies to the many Android tablets on the market as the iPad: while ebook reading isn't the sole purpose of the device, there's a wide range of apps that can readily add that function. Most major ebook suppliers offer a specific Android app. Compared to Apple, you've got a lot more choice in terms of price points, from bargain-priced resistive touch models through to top-end designs with iPad-like price tags.

Kobo

The disappearance of A&R and Border physical stores doesn't mean the end for Kobo, especially since Pearson bought the online stores for those groups. The Kobo Ereader has a 6-inch e-ink display and long battery life. The local price for the reader is $199.

Sony Digital Reader

Sony was one of the first to market with an E-ink ebook reader, though Australian release took rather longer. It's backed by Sony's own ebook store, which isn't as large as some of its competitors. Sony's eReaders also support side-loading books and reading PDF documents, and will set you back $229 for the Pocket Edition and $299 for the Touch Edition.

This week's honorable mention goes out to your smartphone. Many of you also noted that you didn't need a specific ereader: you used your phone to read ebooks on the go, and your Android phone, Blackberry or iPhone were enough for you.

Have something to say about one of the competitors? Did we miss your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Comments

    I was really interested in an eReader not long ago. I needed something that could read PDF's, as I have some Microsoft textbooks in PDF format that I would love to read with an eReader. After looking at many of them, I realised it was never going to work because when doing practice questions I need to quickly flip between the question pages and the answer pages. As far as I know, no eReader accommodates for this situation, so I gave up looking.

      @Dean
      You could easily add bookmarks to the sections you want to quickly flick to. Regardless I cant see how an e-reader would make it harder to find a section than flicking through a paper book.

        Dean is right. I use my Kindle DX to read academic papers in PDF format. Reading the pages in order (like a book) is fine, but flicking back and forth to read endnotes is too cumbersome.

        I would highly recommend the Sony E-reader for you. You can go to history on it and it will bring you back to where ever you were in less than a few seconds or you can page skim if you know the pages you are looking for. Also you can book mark and add footnotes to any bookmarked pages. It reads all files including pdf and word files. I absolutely love mine. It is very user friendly, not difficult to navigate and has over a week of battery life and I read up to 4 hours a day. Hope you can find one!

        I have to disagree. I have an original Sony reader, and I love it for reading plain text. For reading PDF textbooks, it would be painful because:
        -Resolution is low, making typical A4 PDF file text too small to read full screen. Fine print is not legible.
        -Limited colours, making pictures and diagrams difficult to read
        -Slow page swapping, No good for fast flicks through multiple pages

        For my money, I would get a cheap laptop or tablet.

    "90 inch" Kindle DX lol.

      Yeah, that would ruin the portability! Error fixed now.

    still waiting on a colour e-ink display so I can read comics on my eReader. The iPad is far to expensive for this use, but if there was something in the kindle price range with a colour screen I'd buy it in a second.

      Color e-ink? Is that even possible? I thought it was not possible to have color e-ink screen technology wise!

      What's wrong with color LCD displays like the iPad2 (or any other tablet like the Samsung Galaxy)? I have an iPad 2 (don't have an ereader) and I read for long hours on my ipad and I have no problem. Except for the battery of course. I never got the 10 hours they talk about. However I also never had the tiring of eyes as they say for LCD screens? Do people actually get that? I guess that would be the only reason anyone would need a color E-ink screen right?

      Or is there any other reason?
      TJ

    Yes, what is the story about the colour e-ink?

    I have been looking online to buy myself a Kindle, especially for Uni. But it would be very handy if I could have colour, but I don't want to have the backlite as with Tablets.

      colour e-ink touchscreens have already been manufactured and besides the battery life, e-ink means you can easily read outdoors in full sunlight without fighting to overcome the glare. not sure when anybody will release a device though but I have been waiting for it too.

    What about a rooted Nook?

      I'm also surprised that the Nook didn't get a spot in the best 5 ebook readers. Some people say that the nook is even better than the Kindle 3. The Kindle is the only one that doesn't have a touch-screen. Both the Nook and the Kobo have touch screens.

      Chris

    This article failed to mention any of the many important differences between the reviewed products. Like the fact that a Kindle's battery life is about 30 times that of an ipad, but the kindle's pointing device (jostick) makes fof a very poor user interaction compared to those devices that have touch screens. Doesn't seem like the reviewer has taken the trouble to try out the devices. Poor job.

      Hive Five roundups are based on reader votes -- it isn't a detailed feature comparison of each device by a single individual.

        Understandable that a roundup isn't going to go into full detail about particular devices, but considering that the article is about ebook readers, and the main draw for an ebook reader versus a tablet is the screen (i.e. made for reading) and battery life, the major differences between tablets & ebooks readers should have been mentioned..

      I'm actually quite happy that my kindle doesn't have a touchscreen. Given the slow refresh rate of e-ink, most of the intuitive gestures - sliding between pages, scrolling, pinch to zoom - would be much less pleasant to use. The dedicated buttons are great for flipping between static pages (the lack of smudging is also nice).

      Interestingly, Amazon are testing the waters with ad-supported kindles...they don't interrupt your reading, but they do replace all your screensavers with 'special offers'.

    I bought a Nook Color for about AUD$230. It's a 7" tablet running Android. Took me about 4 hours of reading up to hack it and now it's a Honeycomb tablet I use in the living room for home theatre use, remote control, and general browsing. Oh yeah, and I can read books on it too.

      So is it any good?

        Mine is fantastic, I use it for at least 2 hours every weekday during the commute. Great battery, fast enough to run honeycomb comfortably (though without the Honeycomb source code, it's not as smooth as it could be), runs CyanogenMod, great eReader, great for comics and manga, plays Angry Birds when you need a break.
        Only thing that is lacking is a data connection, it's wifi only. If you don't need data on the go (or already have a smartphone that can share data), heavily recommended for the price.

    <3 my Kindle

    When you talk about the cost of a "3G" version, you should mention whether or not a monthly cost is also involved.

      There's no absolute monthly cost with any of the 3G options here -- only the choice of whether you sign up for a contract plan or go prepaid if you're using 3G. Kindle is the only one with no charge at all.

    I spent a while weighing up the various options before buying a Kindle. Aside from the general point about ebook access kinda sucking across the board for Aussie users (nothing new there:), the Kinde is great because it does one thing really well: allows you to read ebooks! There is something to be said for the simplicity of a device which does one specific thing really well.

      I agree, I bought an iPad and thought it could double as an eBook reader, however after reading on a Kindle for about 10 mins I want one of them for reading, just because they are soo easy on the eyes, regardless of the settings you have on the iPad

    I got a BeBook Neo when it first came out in Australia. I love having an ebook reader (I read immediately before I go to bed, so a device with a backlight wasn't an option), but I regret the price I paid for the Neo, which was about $550. It has a touchscreen (with stylus) that I thought was really important at the time - and have used twice.
    That said, when it comes time to replace my Neo, I'll gladly buy another BeBook - although definitely a much more basic one.

      $550? That has got to hurt! Wow! I didn't know any of these ebooks are that expensive! The Kindle is only $114 now right?

      I have to agree with you on the stylus though! I too bought one for my iPad and used it only twice! Even though I thought I'd be carrying my iPad to every lecture and would make notes with it, that didn't happen. Nothing like good old paper and pen when it comes to taking notes... at least for me that is!

      BTW, I've never even heard about the Bebook you're talking about (no wonder it wasn't one of the top 5 from LifeHacker); but going to check out now! But MOST DEFINITELY NOT going to buy one :)

      No pun intended!
      Kelly W

    Just bought a Kindle 6" with 3G from Amazon, looking forward to it coming. Supposedly here by Friday when purchased today... :)

      I ordered mine last Monday and it arrived Thursday Afternoon. You can track it on the amazon site which actually told me it was at my front door, (postman did not knock).
      Enjoy!

      Very quick delivery. I ordered mine on the 28th July and received on August 1st. (yesterday). I have downloaded a book and extremely happy with it so far. Still working my way through the manual.

    So to be sure I understand this....

    If you get a Kindle 3G then there are no monthly charges for data connection etc and all you pay is the price of the books you download?

    The article misses the most important part of any ebook reader - the price and availability of content.
    I bought my first Kobo about 6 months ago, the same time as friends bought Kindles, Sony, and PanDigital models. The kindle only uses its own format, and really ties you to purchasing books ONLY from Amazon. The Kobo and Sony support the "epub" open standard and display pdf, and have a look out there - LOTS of books are available on epub.
    My friend who bought the Kindle paid LOTS for content, then just dumped it for a touch screen Kobo (a new model).
    Also most of us use calibre to manage a rapidly expanding library and transfer content without restrictions.

      This is a bit misleading. You can transfer almost any book to Kindle's .mobi format using Amazon's email service AND plenty of other sites offer .mobi/kindle-friendly formats too (eg Smashwords).

      The number of books available in each format does depend A LOT on the kind of thing you want to read - you should investigate the market you are most interested in before you buy your device.

        How do you use kindle email or smashwords to read books not in mobi format?

      Pick the reader with the features you want. The file format is irrelvant if you download from calibre.com. You can then change the book/document in the format you purchase to the format your reader supports. I have a kindle and regularly change epub, and other formats to mobi with ease

    I bought a Sony eReader last year (small touch screen version) and while the device is lovely to use I wouldn't recommend it for those who want to read traditionally published books, especially if you're buying from Australia (geo-restrictions kick-in far more than in the paper book world). Many new release title are not available in ePub format and if they are available they're usually $4-10 more expensive than the equivalent Kindle version. If you're only going to read free books (i.e. old stuff that's out of copyright) or alternatively published stuff (e.g. Smashwords) it's fine. However the software provided by Sony & Adobe is the worst I have ever encountered in 20+ years of using software and implementing information management systems on a large scale - truly the most awful thing ever designed. You can get around it but need to have a little tech-savyness to do so (so not something the technophopes would want/be able to do). When I upgraded computers recently and had trouble re-synching my device with my new computer the people in the specialsit Sony store in Adelaide were the least helpful people I have ever encountered in a customer service role. Ever. Anywhere in the world. I had more luck in Syria where I didn't speak their language, they didn't speak mine and wouldn't talk to me anyway 'cos I'm a woman on my own.

    I wanted to buy something other than the dominant offering (Kindle) because I never think it's a good thing for consumers that there is such a dominant player in any market - but I wouldn't do it again.

    Not sure if anyone's mentioned the issue of glare - very important if you want to read in sunlight or outdoors. Forget the tablets, none of their screens aren't designed for it.

    The Kindle, apart from its other many good features [yes, I have one, and love it], allows you to read in full direct sunlight with no glare or reflection at all. In fact, the brighter the sunlight the easier it is to read.

    There's no point in having a reader if you can't actually use it half the time, is there? I can read my Kindle anywhere, in any lighting conditions, and even have the leather cover which includes a built in reading light.

    Kindle 3G is great also. You can actually do basic internet browsing (email, social networks, news feeds, etc) and there are no monthly or additional costs.
    I think it's worth the extra $50 if you don't all ready have a 3G phone.

    I have a Sony ereader Touch edition, and the other important fact worth mentioning is that the e-ink is a static page, there's no refresh like on a tablet, so it is much less fatiguing on your eyes, it's just like reading a book.

    Bought a Kobo Touch from Chapters Indigo and had my sister on-ship it to me. It arrived on Friday, and so far I'm enamoured. Not very expensive either - worked out to be about $150.
    Best bit? The touchscreen works with gloves on. I had been using my iPad previously, but the weight of the device combined with the backlight made my hands and eyes hurt, and then in the freezing cold at the train station having to have one glove off to turn the page was annoying.

    I feel like NOOK is also a equal competitor for Kindle and KOBO books.

    Kindle 3 Wifi arrived today. Calibre installed. 1796 books ready to go. Huzzah.

      1796 book ready to go? what does that mean? The kindle comes loaded with 1796 books loaded? Are they free or did you get a special package of some sort? Would appreciate if RHahn or somebody from lifehacker could answer that!
      Thanks in advance!
      Dan

    The new Barnes & Noble Nook Touch is awsome. Better than the Kindle & about the same price. It really rocks!

    Kindle's the best, especially with the price decrease. If you have or are thinking of buying one check out a book called "The Imperfect Enjoyment" by Dewan Gibson. Most hilarious and touching book I've read in awhile.

    Can anyone comment on the PDF rendering performance of any of the models?

      PDF performance on the Nook Color is really good.
      Great quality colour screen and easy to sideload pdf's etc by dragging and dropping onto a micro sd card.
      Supports flash as well in the browser.

        Good to know. Anyone know of comparable devices with eInk displays?

    I have had a Bebook Neo since last Feb. It is a bit on the pricey side, but no complaints apart from that. It is stable, allows me to buy books from various ebookstores, allows me to read books in a large variety of formats including epub, pdf, rtf, doc. It is also aesthetically pleasing. I contemplated buying a Kobo Touch recently as a backup reader, but changed my mind eventually. Kobo does not allow books to be organised into folders or shelves.

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